If you were to describe a hackathon, a simple explanation would probably be that it is an event in which computer programmers, engineers and software developers come together to code, design, and develop projects of their own choosing.
If you were to describe a hackathon in simpler terms, it would probably be just a lot of guys in a room that code. Emphasis on guys.
There have been a lot of ongoing debates about the 80/20 gap between men and women in the tech industry. There are increasing opportunities for women to enter STEM fields, however, there still tend to be numerous obstructions limiting the involvement of women reaching for these opportunities. At this point, it is not up for debate anymore; it is a problem that needs to be solved.
Change is not going to happen overnight, but several organizations around the globe have been taking steps to develop spaces for women to grow within the tech industry, including one of our very own here at Rutgers. On February 7th, Rutgers Women in Computer Science and the Douglass Project presented Hackhers: the first Rutgers Hackathon organized for women.
The world is going to a place where it is encouraging women. There have been many conferences and organizations around the world ready to tackle this issue. We want to build a network. Build a strong network. Make it less of a subgroup of computer science. We are getting bigger. I want this club to have an impact.”-Poorva Sampat, 2017
The event had all the makings of a typical hackathon. There was a multitude of corporate sponsors all eager to share their experiences as well as hone in on new talent. The event was comprised of an opening ceremony presenting the sponsors and a closing ceremony announcing the winner. It was an event filled with tech talks and friendly competition as caffeine-filled coders worked on their projects throughout the night. Along with the competition, there were also beginner workshops to help provide a welcoming experience for those who were new to hackathons.
Most Hackathons are not beginner friendly – which is what is wanted. We wanted it to be more friendly, more close knit, and more approachable compared to other Hackathons. It shouldn’t be swamped with competitive people. A space where girls don’t have to feel intimidated and can just come and learn.”-Jasmine Feng, 2016
Hackathons are important because they give you outside the classroom experience. Classes are mostly theoretical, however what you end up doing in class won’t be what you do in your life. You come in and you start your own business. It’s your drive. Make your own things that you think will help you and other people. “-Julie Duncan, 2015
I have never been to a hackathon before and I really wanted to learn. I think making something useful you made yourself is really special.”-Sanjana Dodley, 2017
One of the most successful talks of the night delved into imposter syndrome, the feeling of inadequacy despite being accomplished. This isn’t something exclusively faced by women entering STEM fields, but it touched on how there is always a level of insecurity people face in their daily lives. It essentially covered the underlying theme of this whole event, the idea that you should not let fear hold you back from discovering your potential.
Coding is definitely intimidating, but it’s about taking small steps. Just taking a few hours out of your week to get kids introduced can make a huge difference in the long run… We have so many resources to help. The pool is not really that cold; we want them to just dive in.”-Julie Duncan, 2015
By Tulika Sen